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December 8, 2015

Tell it to Sun.Star: Grace Poe must explain

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 29, 2015.

PRESIDENTIAL hopeful Sen. Grace Poe should fully explain to Filipinos why she previously decided to apply for and obtain US citizenship when she could have easily lived, worked and raised a family in America without giving up her Filipino citizenship.

Since Senator Poe is now running for president no less, she has to deal with the reality that she has put herself and her family under a microscope.

Voters deserve a straightforward answer from the senator, on the question as to the specific circumstances that compelled her to seek and acquire US citizenship, and surrender her Filipino citizenship. This is a perfectly legitimate question that is of great public interest.

Recently, published reports alleged that Poe continued to use her US passport in her travels abroad, even after she had renounced her US citizenship.

There are many Filipinos who have lived and worked in America for years but have been content on staying on as permanent US residents, or so-called green cardholders.

Based on a cursory review of US immigration rules, both US citizens and foreigners who are US green cardholders enjoy long-term rights to live, work and even raise families in America.

The significant difference, as far as many Filipino voters are concerned, is that when you acquire American citizenship, just like what Senator Poe did, you have to swear absolute loyalty to the US and its Constitution, and categorically reject your Filipino citizenship.

Assuming Senator Poe wanted to work and live in America, and raise a family there, which she actually did, she could have accomplished all these as a US green cardholder, without necessarily becoming an American citizen--without necessarily abandoning her Filipino citizenship.

I personally know of two Filipino sisters--a nurse and a pharmacist--who have both worked and lived in America for more than 30 years.

The nurse applied for and became a US citizen a long time ago, while the pharmacist remains a US green cardholder, simply because she does not want to give up her Filipino citizenship.

By her own account, Poe spent much of her adult life in the US, and became an American citizen in 2001. She gave up her US citizenship only in 2010, shortly before she was named chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

While Poe has relinquished her US citizenship, her husband remains an American citizen. Their three children are natural-born American citizens.

Under US immigration rules, a US green cardholder has the right to live and work in the US on a permanent basis, as well as the right to travel overseas and return to the US.

However, unlike US citizens, US green cardholders cannot vote in US elections; can be expelled from the US if they commit criminal offenses in America; and do not enjoy the US government’s protection, such as when they get into trouble with the law outside America, or when they get kidnapped abroad. --Arnel Ty, House deputy minority leader and LPGMA party-list representative.

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